I'm not a believer of big stuff. Big stuff being, I don't know, whatever makes this world tick, or whatever makes our stories weave into each other and makes us meet the people we do and whatever makes us go "holy fuck what" every now and then. I don't! I'm sorry. I just like focusing on the little things, on the transitory, right-now-right-here. Details, simple and mundane things. Candy, colored bandages, pretty trees. I don't know if that makes me dumb, dull, or dim, but it is what it is.




I always want sweet stuff. I don't know what is wrong with me. But seriously, all the time. Dessert! And so, last week, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday, I got off work and o muse! I had the most brilliant idea: I was going to a store before getting on the bus to go home and get! Ice cream.

I went into a small store near my bus stop, and headed straight towards the ice cream fridge. As I was trying to keep myself from taking the whole thing home with me, a little girl walks into the store and stands right next to me, in front of a door reading "Restricted Access: Authorized Personnel Only". She must've been five, or six. A street child: barefoot, face dirty with smoke, torn clothes, highlighted hair (as often you can see in indigent children; the lack of nutrients causes melanin deficiency, which makes them unusually blonde in parts of their hair), and she was holding a dirty water jug. A second later, a girl pops her head out of the Restricted Access door, and says to her "we've got no ice", and slams the door again. Little dirty faced girl tilts her head and looks back outside to the 113ºF street. She turns to me, still rummaging through the popsicles, and says:

- "¿No sabés que querés, verdad señorita?"
- "No, no sé, mi vida.", I answer.

I look at her, and she's staring down the fridge.

"¿Cual elegirías?", I ask. She chooses as I expected, and points towards a strawberry popsicle with a bright green and pink wrapper. I grab that one, and the one I decided on buying, and I give her my hand so she'd follow me to the cash register.

As I'm paying for our ice cream, she asks,

- "¿Vos sos casada, señorita?"
- "No soy casada, ¿por qué?"
- "Sos muy linda, señorita."
- "Vos también sos muy linda. ¿Cómo te llamás?"
- "Estrella.", she says.

I put my wallet back in my purse, and I give her her popsicle. She says thank you, and strolls back outside, and so do I, to my bus stop. I didn't really make anything of it; I was content, she was content. Pretty sweet deal.




Today I had to change my bus route. I usually take the bus straight home after work, but I'm starting school next week, so I had to go and fill out some forms over there, so I took another bus.

There's a, well, inconvenience. Since I'm done with my introductory university course, I'm relocated to continue studying to another university campus, which is located right next to the port, and to the biggest slum cluster in the city. So, because of my work schedule, I barely have time to make it to college, so I have to take the fastest route possible, which is taking a bus that goes right into the slums.

Now, this bus rarely has more than five people on it. Nobody takes this bus because it's a target for criminals living in the slums. The MO is something like this: they climb into the bus, select a target, walk up to them and force them out of the bus with either a gun or a knife or whatever. Whatever happens after that, I don't know. Anything. Everything. The driver is either in on it, or too afraid to do anything, so he plays blind.

This, of course, probably doesn't happen everytime, but it's rather common. Anyways, I have to take this bus. And I did today.

I'm pretty fucking careless, lemme tell you. I don't recognize hazard unless it's INMYFACE, so, sometimes, I'm not as cautious as I should be. But this time I swear I was. I didn't put my earphones on, I took my earrings and necklace off as I climbed into the bus. I sat almost next to the driver, and near a possible exit.

Sometimes cautious is just a word.

The bus was reaching the end of the slums when three men jumped in. Barefoot. Laughing. One was shirtless and had a bottle in one hand. They greet the driver with a pat in the back, and don't pay their tickets, then proceed into the bus. My first instinct is, of course, to not make eye contact. I look out the window until I notice something next to me. Don't want to turn don't turn don't turn don't turn don't turn, but I have to. There's one man standing at my side, another in front of me, and one behind. They say nothing, but they're smiling. I hear the bus driver say, in some Spanish-Guaraní dialect, "I think this is your stop".

My heart was crawling out of my neck. I wanted to run, but they were blocking all of my exits. There was only one other person in the bus, a man up ahead, seemingly sleeping. I devoted all my strength into looking cool, not looking afraid, don't bark at this dog. The man next to me said, "we'll help you get down from the bus", and flashed a knife he took from his back pocket.

Something rather interesting happened as I was confronted with two choices with similarly dismal outcomes (getting off the bus with these fellows, or refusing and getting stabbed right there). I just started considering completely stupid and ridiculous alternatives. What if I kick one. What if I just start screaming my head off. What if I flip them off. What if I jump out the window. What if I start singing and spinning around until they think I'm insane. What if. What if if if if if if if if.

The bus slowed down at a bus stop and I thought that was it. That I would have to get down right there. Oh god I have to get down and and and and and whatever is it that they want to do to me. I almost wished they would just randomly attack me so I wouldn't have to deal with the imminence of danger and what are they going to do just what what WHAT.

Instead, in climbs someone, and the bus accelerates again. I stare intently at the passageway now blocked by one of the men.

Estrella.

The same girl I bought a popsicle for last week climbs on the bus and she knows these men. She knows them and greets them and then she greets me! Hello Miss. Hola Señorita. She touches my hair and asks, again, if I'm married. No sweetie, not married, no. She pushes another one of these men off the way and says something in Guaraní to them. What. What does that mean. She goes to the back of the bus. Another man answers back in a growl. Estrella says something again and the men move. They move. They go to the back of the bus. I can breathe. One. They go to the back of the bus and then they ring the bus bell and they get off. They get off. I can breathe. One two one two. I look back and there they are, on the street, becoming smaller and smaller as the bus drives away, smaller and I can breathe better and more and one two three four five all the way to the next safe spot.




I don't believe in big stuff. I don't. I still don't. Caution, coincidence, destiny, meant to be, it is written, whatever. Nothing. It just happened. Expecting life to treat you well because you are a good person is like expecting an angry bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.

And yet, sometimes things happen. Good things. Small things.




I learned something in kindergarten. It was a magic trick. If you cut through an apple horizontally, the way you don't cut apples, so that the stem is on one hemisphere, you can see a little star where you cut through. I bought two apples on my way back home. I don't know why, my stomach was still in a knot, but I wanted an apple. Only one, but for some strange motive I bought two. I got home and cut through the first one and it was rotten inside.

But I had another one, one I shouldn't have had. I bought two.

March of the Monsters
Amber's call

Sast brought the birds. She was good with birds, they were rattled but quiet as she released them into the run along the back wall. Small but reliable layers we thought they would be worth the mess.

Em brought the pantry supplies, grain, canned foods, dried meat, tubers and gas. Food that would last and basic cooking kit. Wok and bowls. The food stocks, ammunition and batteries lined one wall with the bedding lofted and living space underneath. Nin brought blankets. It was getting hot during the day now, but the nights were still chilled up here on the ranges. Vee was hooking up the header tanks and pump to the bunker plumbing.

I was out opening the gates and cutting fences for the herd of brindled Kel so they could run if they needed to. They skirted around the fenceline in a tight pack, not sure of the new opportunity or the land beyond. Dust storms striped the western sky. Amber, the second moon was crossing overhead, close and fast this time of year. Her pull bringing the tides high and rumored to be a factor in the migration of the Ovine Mesh. The Mesh was always a concern in Spring as they headed for the salt pans, but when Amber crosses overhead in Spring we bunker down. We were a small outpost doing quite well, but with no interest in risking our lives. Other teams had been lost, there was no point in joining them just for the sake of bravado.

I made my way back across the winter brush towards the bunker set into the western face of our ring of hills. The homestead was shuttered and quiet. All the clutter which hung about the verandahs was locked away, stacked into the main hall. All bar the big old prayer wheel which spun slowly, creaking and singing into the wind near Para's aerials, more of a scarecrow than an item of faith with the current team, but a familiar landmark nevertheless. The garden looked new and tender, spring shoots just breaking the surface. I wondered how much of it would be there when we surfaced.

Nin and I were gardening when we first heard the noise two days ago. Rumbling and cracking of timber in the east. The lead beasts calling across the miles to each other hungry for feed and salt. It was hard to imagine those massive flocks on the move, and having seen the damage at other stations I wasn't keen to have a front row seat this time either.

We were packed in, heavy steel clad doors waiting overhead. Para sat in the front corner with his microframe cluster head, fine tuning his latest aerials. He had a theory about the comms they used. A mast with a vertical colinear array stood against the sheer face of the northern ridge. A translator hummed away in an access pit at the base of the mast. Its cabling fed into well drained and heated armoured pipes running back to the bunker. Helical turbines whirred, charging the battery banks and powering the sensor arrays and the microframes. Building QRP comms was Para's speciality. One of those lucky people who's hobbies and work aligned, he was quietly happy managing checksums, finding patterns, uncrypting and decyphering. His bunk lined with books and references, some biographies of the old fox hole radio opers from Earth.

He sent a last transmission off to Gobi. The inter-planet radio comms used phased microwave arrays. This early in Spring he had to aim through the thinner patches in the heavy ionosphere, often bouncing off one of the moons to get a clear trajectory on the regional centre.

Locked down, we all settled in, fine tuning the packing and digging out the last of the winter reports and mending to keep our hands busy. Vee cracked jokes about Earth nations which lived on the sheep's back and wondered if we should export. The rest of us were quiet, listening, waiting.

Night fell, Pushna set northeast, Amber shadowing on her southern side as she hugged close overhead. We could hear them call again now. Their march reverberated through the ground.

Para had been researching the Mesh the previous Spring. He explained how the lead beasts, maned and with with yellow eyes, would step out, the green eyed followers in the clan responding to the yellow frequency. The Mesh was formed by the yellow beasts communicating with each other, creating a moving fabric of hungry thunder. Mainly herbivorous, they hankered for salt in the spring, taking out any other creatures which did not respond to their comms. Para described the ambush of a herd of Kel, their horns useless against the thick fleecy hides, quickly trampled into a bloody saltlick.

The thunder moved closer, we could hear trees crack and animals flee over our heads. I hoped our Kel were long gone.

Para was still typing. Somehow he had rigged up the old prayer wheel so that he could adjust its frequency by modding the output of the oscillators that were down in the bunker. We watched the video feed from the homestead as he keyed in the Yellow Mesh data and hit send. The wheel started slowly but we could hear it creak and whine into action, the feed horns started to sing as the oscillators warmed up. The gentle glow from the ancient glass enclosed amplifiers gave the wheel a ghoulish appearance.

We coudn't hear the transmission but the Yellow Mesh certainly could, an earsplitting call repeated across the hills, we could hear their anger and confusion as they tried to make sense of this foreign pattern jamming the yellow frequency. The yellow beasts fell mute, listening. The green beasts milled, stressed and confused, and finally angry. Their collective sweat maddened them and they attacked the silent leaders, taking down their mesh in a crush of heavy horns. The green pods drank, blood spattered and wild eyed. Dawn saw them standing around processing election data to choose new yellow leaders and reorient themselves.

Para was asleep against the microframes. Nin had thrown a blanket over him. We waited.

Thanks to adhoc

Happy birthday, babies!

I can't believe it's been a year since you were born. The 8 1/2 months it took for you to get here seemed like two years. And now look it's your first birthday already. How'd that happen?

I would say something deep about time and how it really doesn't exist or something about our perception of it, but naw. Maybe another day.

My twins are toddlers now and we're going to go to McDonald's tonight to celebrate. The big party is this Saturday. A pizza parrrr-tay! I have a coupon and I mean to use it!

w00t!

Over the last five days I've covered almost 7 miles on foot. I found I can walk a mile in 20 minutes, without significantly raising my heart rate, and for all my complaints, it took five days before Tired and Sore caught up to me.

I wasn't yet a half mile from the house yesterday when I noticed Tired creeping up behind me as I ascended a hill. A few paces later when I crested the rise, Sore joined us.

I only allowed them to stay with my pace for a few minutes. They aren't good company, always complaining that it's time to walk home. Or better, use that cell phone in my pocket and call for a ride.

Since I made this resolution two weeks ago I notice I am more apt to pick up my pace instead of slowing it, to add distance rather than quit, and to feel disappointed when I return to my street, sometimes wishing for the time to just keep walking.

I would be lying, though, if I said I didn't sometimes feel like an old beach horse, too. You know the ones, tethered to a portable corral, available for riding when you pay $20. It takes strength to pull them from grazing, and a decent tug on the reins to get them moving once you're in the saddle.

The tired, old beach horse plods along in the sand doing all the work for you, not caring who you are or if you're excited for the ride or the beach. It just plods along until it recognizes the U-turn spot. Then you find out just how excited that old beach horse is to get back to the portable corral and resume grazing from the dunes.

There's a lot of parts to my every day when I plod like a beach horse just heading out for a ride. I can feel the energy kick in at the sight of my personal U-turns, and I do pick up my pace the closer I am to my corral.

But I don't want to see that happen when I'm walking. Walking isn't a job I'm saddled with. It's supposed to be my free rein.

I think it is far too easy to revert to being an old beach horse if all I focus on is reaching the U-turn point, then hurrying home. I also think I've been "hurrying home" far too often for too many years now.

It's time my boots were made for walking.

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